January 24, 2012
Dr. James C. Bliss, a prominent technological innovator in Silicon Valley, has died after a long courageous battle with multiple myeloma. He was a pioneer in the development of technology for the blind and visually impaired and co-founder of Telesensory Systems.
Dr. Bliss was born in Fort Worth, Texas on October 21, 1933. He grew up in Oklahoma City and Chicago. He earned a B.S. from Northwestern University, an M.S. from Stanford University, and a Ph.D. from M.I.T, all in Electrical Engineering. He began his engineering career at Stanford Research Institute in Menlo Park. While working there he joined forces with Prof. John Linvill at Stanford University to develop a reading machine for John’s daughter, Candy, who was blind. After several years of development, the result was a small portable reading system called the Optacon, which revolutionized the blindness field. During this time he was also an Associate Professor at Stanford University, where he taught Electrical Engineering courses and supervised Ph.D. candidates.
In 1971, he co-founded Telesensory Systems to manufacture and disseminate the Optacon, as well as other high technology products and technologies, including speech synthesis, for people who were blind or had low vision. He served as President of Telesensory Systems for over 20 years. He was also instrumental in founding several other Silicon Valley companies, including Speech Plus Inc. and Datacopy Corp. After leaving Telesensory Systems, he founded JBliss Imaging, where he served as President for 5 years.
In 2007 he received the Migel Medal -- the highest honor in the blindness field -- from the American Foundation for the Blind.
In retirement, he served on the Santa Clara County Advisory Commission for Persons with Disabilities and the Los Altos Hills Pathway Committee. After moving to Parc Regent in Los Altos, he continued his interest in hiking, even writing a book on the subject. He has also been active in raising funds for multiple myeloma research organizations.
He is survived by his wife, Joan, his daughter, Judith and her husband Gerald, his son, John and his wife Kim and four grandchildren, Paul and Jane Huff and Tom and Mandela Bliss, and his sister Linda Bliss and her family in Minnesota.
Donations may be made to the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation, 383 Main Ave, 5th floor, Norfolk, CT, 06851. A celebration of his life will be held at a later date.